Raid on IWW at Boulder Dam

An article from the July 18, 1931 issue of the Industrial Worker describing the arrest of IWW member, Frank Anderson, who was organizing workers at the Boulder Dam (later called Hoover Dam) project.

Raid on I.W.W. at Boulder Dam

Fellow Worker Frank Anderson and others are in city prison

Charge is "vagrancy" but is merely formal and preliminary to effort to stop all organization work among the workers on the six companies job

LAS VEGAS, Nev., July 11.-- The arrest of Fellow Worker Frank Anderson, by the authorities of Las Vegas and the continued arrests of all unionists on the Boulder Dam job is preliminary to a major struggle for the right of organization which now hangs in the balance. Instead of being placed in the county jail, conditions are so crowded in that capitalist pen for the impoverished slaves that he was turned over to the city police and lodged in the local hoosegow. The local press comes out with a scare headline, "I.W.W. Group At Boulder Dam Revealed." The "revelation" is rather belated, seeing that the I.W.W. has worked openly here as elsewhere to organize for enforcement of the safety laws which are being flagrantly violated and whose violation has already resulted in making a death trap of the operations of the Six Companies. Many lives have already been sacrificed thru cave-ins and explosions which would never have occurred had there been the slightest effort to enforce the safety laws of Nevada.

The Las Vegas Age, local capitalist sheet says this morning:

A search of the person of Frank Anderson brought to light a voluminous array of credentials, letters of introduction, membership cards, dues stamps and a copy of the Industrial Worker official newspaper of the organization.

Upon being turned over to the city police, Anderson was immediately questioned as to his previous activities. He appeared to have no fear of the consequences of his arrest and talked freely to authorities.

Anderson, who is twenty-eight years old has been working at the dam as a truck tender in one of the tunnels at the river camps, admits having worked there for the last seventeen days, and spending his off-shift time in organizing the workers.

He stated that he had recruited twenty-one new members in the last month and had already called one meeting of the I.W.W. at the river camp. He also stated that there were about three hundred members at the river camp and approximately a hundred at Boulder City.

Anderson is an American citizen, born at Rohnerville, Humboldt county, California. He states that he has been an active worker for the organization since 1923. For the past time, before coming to Las Vegas, he had been working at Nyssa, Oregon for the Shea Construction company.

When asked what he would do if released, he said he would be forced to stay here and continue his organization work until he was stopped, at which he would secure counsel and make a test case of the matter under the Nevada laws.

Asked as to his work at the dam, and the reasons he had for discontent, he stated that his principal objection was that there was no cold drinking water provided the workers. He also maintained that for a man working on the night shift there was no possibility of sleeping during the day. Questioned as to his respect for the law, he added that Six Companies were not themselves obeying Nevada laws with regard to labor provisions.

The charges against Fellow Worker Anderson so far are the usual "vagrancy" although the authorities admit that he has worked regularly and is in possession of funds of his own earning. Threats to turn the case over to the federal authorities for investigation have been made but just what they would have to investigate is unknown as no law on the statute book, altho that does not deter the lawless authorities from pursuing their usual lawless tactics where labor organization is concerned.

The arrests as well as the conditions at the Dam have been thoroly suppressed by the capitalist press. They are of the most abominable character. Bad food, bad housing, dynamite stored in the boiling heat until the nitro-glycerine runs and bunches up causing it to explode when being tamped as has occurred repeatedly. Death after death has been the result and many injured are now in the hospital. The company exploits the men, paying them in "coupon" books redeemable at the company store where exorbitant charges are made.

The I.W.W. will fight this case to the limit and face any charges made. Its work of organization is needed and has been conducted openly and above board. It is to be hoped that there is enough fighting spirit left in these workers at the Dam to act at once in defense of the right of organization.

Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker July 18, 1931 (Vol. 13, No. 29, Whole No. 761)
Transcribed for by Juan Conatz